Update April 2024

Key Characteristics for Successful Pastor

During the 2023 Calling Conversations and subsequent table discussions, congregational members had the opportunity to express their priorities for the essential characteristics needed in our new settled pastor. These characteristics have been shared with the FCC Church Board and with members of the Search Team for inclusion in the Local Church Profile.

Participants identified alignment with our congregation’s progressive practices of Christianity as a vital component in considering who to call as our new pastor. A pastor who understands our identity as Open and Affirming and our commitment to living Christ’s teachings of service and caring for our neighbors and the world is foundational.

Two characteristics stood out above all of the rest as critical for our new Lead Pastor: delivery of Great Sermons and personification of being and living as Spiritually Grounded.

Great Sermons: The highest priority across every Calling Conversation and subsequent table discussions was the need for a settled Pastor who will consistently deliver an inspiring sermon that is intellectually and spiritually challenging. Sermons based on shared theological values are critical to this congregation. The ability to translate scripture to our modern lives in ways that will sustain us throughout the week is our top priority.

Spiritually Grounded: Our members desire a pastor who will work hard for us, and who is both grounded to the Spirit within them, and aware of the world around them. We seek a pastor who is anchored to the core beliefs, values, and purposes of progressive Christianity and whose decisions, leadership, and actions are aligned with those anchors.

There were four other consistently highly valued characteristics to seek in a new Lead Pastor.

Visionary: A pastor who can envision our future and help lead us to be the best congregation that we can be. That vision must be a shared vision developed with the congregation, and with shared leadership moving in the direction of our mission.

Children and Family Ministries: A pastor who is committed to and has proven success in building strong Children and Family ministries.

Community Presence: A pastor who desires interfaith collaboration and community presence and partnership, particularly in Social Justice and Witness issues, and will represent progressive Christianity and FCC to our community and to other faith leaders in Eugene.

Strong Lay Leadership: A pastor who will work hard for us and will also help train and mentor strong Lay Leadership. We seek a pastor who has the confidence and desire to work in a congregation where lay leaders are strong and highly involved and to make key decisions with the congregation.

Other characteristics mentioned as important were strong leadership and problem solving skills; ability to manage and inspire staff; authenticity with strong interpersonal skills; good listening skills; successful experience with administration of a church, particularly in financial administration

Our team will continue to work to support the transition of our congregation over the next several months as we prepare ourselves to welcome a new Lead Pastor.

Transition Team members:

  • Dan Close
  • Clark Compton
  • Bonnie Garcia
  • Stephanie Lonergan
  • Mary Mowday
  • Cathy Paine
  • Kimberley Parzuchowski
  • Martha Pitts, chair
  • Avery Roelof
  • JT Smiedendorf
  • Elly Vandegrift

January 2024

The Transition Team has spent January working with the Search Committee to provide the information we heard from the congregation over the last year and recommitting to accomplish our charge from a year ago: to help insure the congregation is prepared to welcome a new pastor, and to make sure the transition is as smooth as possible. Right now we are in a planning mode and you can expect to hear more from us in the coming weeks.

December 2023 – Calling Conversations

Look for the Calling Conversation table to share your ideas with Transition Team members. Stop by after worship on December 3 and December 10, as well as Wednesday, December 13 at the Soup & Singing gathering. 

Members of the Transition Team will be available for abridged conversations reviewing results from the 2023 all church survey and healing conversations.

You will be invited to participate in expressing your ideas regarding the critical qualities and skills of a settled pastor who will lead us in fulfilling who and what God is calling FCC to be and do in the world.

November 2023- Calling Conversations for the Settled Pastor Search

We are now moving forward into the next phase of our settled pastor search. The Transition Team invites the congregation to attend one of the “Calling Conversations” scheduled during November. These highly interactive group conversations will be larger in size than the recent “Healing Conversations” and will focus on the question: Who and what is God calling us to be and do in the world?

This is your opportunity to contribute your thoughts about the priorities for our congregation. In addition, we will spend about half of the session discussing your ideas regarding the critical qualities and skills of a settled pastor who will lead us in fulfilling our call. Please plan to participate.

September 2023 Report

In September, the Transition Team completed major tasks in the congregational transition process. Many joined us on October 15 in the Wheeler Room for an update on the work we have done and a peek forward at plans for the fall. The three critical tasks completed in September were:

  • Completed the Healing Conversations and provided the church board a summary. (see summary below)
  • Drafted a Process and Timeline for the Pastoral Search to be delivered to the Board. The Board will appoint the Search Team and is committed to a transparent and inclusive process for appointing members.
  • Outlined a plan for the next phase of conversations for this fall: Calling Conversations.

Calling Conversations

The Transition Team shared with the Board comments in six key areas. These six areas will be highlighted in our next set of conversations on what we as members of FCC Eugene are being called to be and do.

  1. Value of connections and community as a part of the congregation
    Activities and Traditions ~ Small group experiences ~ Shared larger group experiences ~ Intergenerational experiences ~ Opportunities to more fully know and be known by others
  2. We are a community of Spiritual Seekers
    Shared values as progressive Christians ~ Strong worship services are critical ~ Intellectually and spiritually challenging sermons based on shared theological values is critical; translate scripture to our lives in ways that sustain through the week ~ Spiritual Development ~ Living Christ’s teachings of service and care for neighbors and the world
  3. Importance of having strong participation of families with children
    Joy ~ Kids must know they matter, and have a community ~ An intergenerational spiritual home for children, families and all who worship ~ Support in parenting is needed ~ Concern that an aging congregation cannot be sustained
  4. Need for strong lay leadership
    Speaking truth in love is critical to our success ~ Avoid making the same mistakes in management of the church ~ Congregational participation is key ~ We must own our own future
  5. Demonstrations of Love and Care for each other in difficult times
    Pastoral Care ~ Congregational Care ~ Programming and support for members in their Third Act ~ Meal-Trains, prayer chain, congregational visitation
  6. Make a difference in our local community
    Join other spiritual communities in Social Justice Work ~ Impact on homeless issues ~ Build a more just and loving community

June 2023 – Healing Conversations

Starting in June 2023, the Transition Team hosted a number of Healing Conversations for the congregation at First Congregational Church. We have celebrated each participant’s high-points from their time at FCC, and have deeply heard concerns, hurts, and issues that are holding us back as individuals from wholly committing to moving forward in this transition. We hosted small group discussions, limited to 10 or fewer participants, so that significant discussion could take place. We used Appreciative Inquiry techniques to engage those interested in participating.

Though the focus was on the individual, we took notes for an overview to the Board and to the congregation summarizing the areas of celebration, the areas of concern, and messages that became clear in the conversations. Church staff and the Board have taken significant steps to address areas that multiple members identified as needing immediate attention. The work is not complete, but significant progress is meeting needs and we will continue inviting participation from members, new and old.

  • Continuing the Board’s work on transparent leadership and engagement of congregation members in the work and business of the church.
  • Developing a plan and initiating the work to provide Pastoral/Congregational care across all age and demographics while developing and implementing longer term processes and programs. This includes hiring staff to offer programming for children.
  • Revitalizing programs that allow individuals to get to know each other outside worship including Dinners for Eight, Companions in Christ, Seekers, and other programs.
  • Finding and engaging those who wish to serve and were not finding an appropriate place.

Sharing the Draft Transition Plan for Discussion and Revisions

The Team is finalizing a transition plan to guide us through the next 18 months and hopes to share that plan for conversation in June. Our goal is to identify the work to accomplish as a congregation during this time of transition. We are working to recognize and address the polarities Pastor JT has spoken about in his sermons.

  • Build a plan with a timeline with milestones to keep us on track
  • Ensure that the timeline has sufficient flexibility to hear the congregation’s needs and follow the Spirit’s leading. Pastor JT refers to this as Chiros Time.
  • Move toward the hiring of a settled Senior Pastor
  • Provide time for significant congregational conversations to identify and commit (or recommit) to our shared values.
  • Prepare ourselves to move successfully into the future with an understanding of what God is calling us to do and be.
  • Name and address the issues that have kept us from being the best progressive Christian congregation we can be.

Transition Path

These Healing Conversations are the first phase of 3 sets of conversations planned as part of FCC’s transition. In the fall, we will begin Calling Conversations to seek to find common understanding of what Spirit is calling us to be and do in the world. The final set of conversations will begin after the first of the year, exploring the structures and processes we need in the future.

Several people have asked for a one-page road map to help understand the Transition Plan. The team has put this together, and the Board has reviewed it as an outline for our future actions. We include it below with a few notes to consider as you review it.

As Pastor JT reminded us, we are working with a timeline but will move forward in God’s time. We will move together, which may take longer than anticipated. So, the timeline and planning provide for flexibility.

Plans are subject to change with each phase of the transition, building on previous phases. Discussions in the Calling Conversations will be rooted partly in what we hear in the Healing Conversations. While we have a plan, we are open to the call to follow the leading of Spirit and the leading of our members.

Identify and Integrate Past Discussions into Our Work

Over the past few years, search committees, discernment groups, and organizational study groups have done significant work on behalf of the congregation. In this time of transition, it will be important not to recreate that work but to review the information generated by these groups and incorporate it into the work of our transition. We will compile the reports from this work to inform the conversations in phases 2 and 3.